Burberry has done away with its leftovers — and people are fuming.
According to the British fashion house’s latest annual reports, $38 million worth of extra stock — ranging from clothing and accessories to fragrance and perfume — was physically burned in 2018. As the Times of London notes, that’s the equivalent of more than 20,000 trench coats — one of which was recently worn by Melania Trump — and marks a 50 percent increase in the value of product waste over the last two years.
All told, more than £90 million — roughly $116 million — worth of product has reportedly been destroyed over five years. Burberry — which is not the only luxury label to ditch leftovers — defended its actions, telling the Times that it donated what it could for recycling and targeted only trademarked products. The brand added that its new beauty license with Coty called for unsold, pre-Coty cosmetics products to be destroyed.
“Burberry has careful processes in place to minimize the amount of excess stock we produce,” a statement from the company read. “On the occasions when disposal of products is necessary, we do so in a responsible manner, and we continue to seek ways to reduce and revalue our waste.”
But there may be more to the story. Sources have told the Times that the destruction of leftover stock is a means to protect the brand’s integrity. By burning leftovers, Burberry — which takes a hard line on counterfeiting and copyright, as illustrated by a recent lawsuit against Target over a check print — is allegedly trying to prevent its wares from being discounted and sold to the “wrong people.”
As the Business of Fashion has reported, Burberry shareholders have questioned the practice, citing environmental concerns and suggesting that they and others be given the opportunity to purchase products at slashed prices.
Shoppers are also worked up over the waste, calling it “disgusting” and expressing outrage that the excess products aren’t given to charity.
Some commenters suggested that they might donate their own Burberry merchandise to charity shops to sabotage the brand’s alleged concerns about maintaining prestige.